My family treats me well and gave me a Minolta DiMAGE X for a significant birthday in 2002, just a few months after Minolta unveiled its innovative design. It instantly displaced my beloved Olympus XA (no, I haven't received a product placement offer yet). It was smaller and lighter, and best of all -- no waiting for processing. My somewhat late-blooming personal digital revolution was off and running.
This was all before the merger with Konica, part of the long swan song that resulted in these famous merged photographic brands getting out of film and digital camera production altogether earlier this year. A photo industry that no longer has room for a Minolta is a photo industry that's in the process of transforming into a computer and consumer electronics industry. Understandably -- in less than four years, Moore's Law has made my little 2-megapixel gem virtually obsolete.
But I'm still really fond of it and have no desire to replace it anytime soon. One of its most distinctive features is the "folded optics" that combines miniature lenses and a prism (apparently licensed to other manufacturers since then).
As you can see from the optics diagram on the left and the cutaway diagram on the right the DiMAGE X has one lens element facing forwards, then a 90 degree prism and then seven further elements before the image reaches the CCD which is mounted vertically at the bottom of the camera case. Zooming and focusing takes places inside the camera with no protruding zoom lens. The advantages are several; no startup delay (other than opening the lens cover), less chance of lens damage because there's no protrusion, fully sealed lens system (when not in use).The payoff from all this is that I can -- and do -- take the camera everywhere. And it's surprising how much you can get out of 2 megapixels. At work I use Nikon SLRs, formerly film and now digital, but I always keep the DiMAGE with me as a backup and security blanket. A couple years ago I thought I was shooting my last magazine cover with the film SLR, but I took some extra shots with the Dimage so the art director would have something to play with while the film was being processed. She liked one of the DiMAGE shots more than any of the film versions, and we used it. It shouldn't have worked -- 2 megapixels, and all -- but it did. Expression trumped resolution.
I love that camera.